As Father’s Day approaches, one wild falcon father high up on the Yorkshire Wolds will be tested to extremes.
This doting kestrel dad is already caring for five growing chicks - and next week another clutch of eggs by a second mate is due to hatch
In spite of the fact kestrel males generally pair for life this one has three females on the go. And whilst he is helping to sit on the eggs in one nest, he is also hunting and feeding for chicks in another home.
Despite his loose morals, this kestrel has to be congratulated for his efforts to restore populations of kestrels on the Wolds.
The decline of the UK kestrel is of such concern the bird features on the RSPB’s amber warning list of critically endangered birds.
“If he is successful in raising these two families he will have made a significant contribution to the population of kestrels here on the Yorkshire Wolds, even though his morals are a little askew,” said wildlife artist Robert E Fuller who first discovered the philandering falcon father on surveillance cameras.
Robert uses cameras to study animal behaviour for his paintings. He first noticed the kestrel living in his garden in Thixendale had a new mate after observing it giving food to an unknown female via cameras hidden in a nest box.
“I decided to watch him carefully. Kestrels usually mate for life and share the care of their young; taking turns to incubate the eggs and later working hard to hunt for their growing brood. I wanted to know how this was going to turn out,” he said.
In celebration of Father’s Day Robert will be showing live footage of the kestrel as it visits its two nests at his gallery in Thixendale.
“I had already been watching this kestrel from the moment he first found a mate and had followed the process of him finding a suitable nest for her through to the moment that she laid her first eggs.
“Then looking through the footage one day I noticed the male kestrel was catching lizards and giving them to a new female. I knew it wasn’t his mate because I could see her in the nest sitting on the eggs via a second monitor in my kitchen,” he said.
“The footage showed the new girlfriend devouring the lizard at the entrance to an ash stump which I had converted into a nest box with a camera hidden inside.”
“I then noticed there were actually three female kestrels on the scene. I can tell the difference by the markings on their tail feathers.
“The first kestrel’s eggs have hatched and the male is busy bringing in a seemingly endless supply of food for them. The second female has since disappeared but the third girlfriend has laid five eggs which are due to hatch next week.
“In broad daylight not far from his first mate’s nest, I might add.”
So far this brave dad is managing his double life valiantly. He visits both females frequently and is providing for both, even taking turns incubating the eggs.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t all go pear-shaped when the second brood hatches and he has two clutches of hungry chicks to hunt and feed for.
“It could become quite exhausting for this dad having to flit between nests, hunting and feeding chicks alternately,” said Mr Fuller.
Visitors to Robert’s gallery in Thixendale can see the philandering father on live screens in Robert’s gallery. Cameras linked to inside both of the female’s nests show the growing chicks in the first nest and the eggs in the second nest.
The eggs are due to hatch next week.
Everyday at 11.30am and 2.30pm, Robert will put food out for the wild kestrel to give him helping hand. Visitors are invited to watch the spectacle from his studio.